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In Brief


Virginia passes curbs on spaceflight liability

Virginia's Legislature last week gave final approval last week to legislation that would provide commercial space flight operators with immunity from civil liability as long as the participants have signed a waiver warning them of the danger. The bill is expected to become law by July and expire in July 2013. Virginia is home to the Wallops Flight Facility, an operational installation for suborbital and orbital flight projects owned by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Connecticut names insurance regulator

Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell has named Thomas R. Sullivan to be commissioner of the state's Insurance Department. Mr. Sullivan most recently worked as senior vp of Specialty Risk Services L.L.C., a subsidiary of Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. He succeeds Susan Cogswell, who was reassigned to a deputy commissioner post. She will focus on health care and affordability issues.

Cancer top cause of LTD claims: Unum

Cancer remains the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States, according to research from disability insurer Unum Group Corp. Unum's analysis of claims found that 12.1% of long-term disability claims submitted to the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based insurer in 2006 were due to cancer, with breast, prostate and colon cancers topping the list. Complications from pregnancy, 11.7%; joint/muscle/connective tissue diseases, 10.1%; and back injuries, 8%, also made the list of top long-term disability causes.

P/C rates decline in March: Survey

Property/casualty insurance rates fell by 12% overall in March compared with rates a year earlier, electronic insurance exchange MarketScout reports. All lines of coverage, industry sectors and sizes of accounts reported rate decreases, with larger accounts experiencing larger percentage drops than smaller accounts. General liability rates registered the largest drop--13%--with surety reporting the smallest drop at 3%.

Lexington forms unit for excess casualty

Lexington Insurance Co. has created a new midlayer excess casualty unit offering $50 million in capacity. Based in London, the new unit will focus on nonlead layer excess casualty programs with attachment points of $25 million or more, Lexington's parent, New York-based American International Group Inc., said last week in a statement.

Government to increase Medicare Advantage rates

The federal government next year will boost average payment rates to Medicare Advantage plans by 3.5%, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said. That payment increase, somewhat higher than industry analysts had expected, is important not only to the plans--typically health maintenance organizations--but also to participants and employers offering retiree health care benefits. With the government keeping reimbursement rates robust, plans can offer generous benefits and low premiums. That makes the plans attractive to retirees as an alternative to the traditional fee- for-service Medicare program, in which enrollees have a greater choice of medical care providers but also less generous benefits.

Willis sets up unit for smaller clients

Willis Group Holdings Ltd. is sharpening its focus on the small commercial marketplace around the world, which it views as largely untapped by global insurance brokerages. Toward this end, the London-based broker said it has named Tom Bartleet chief executive officer of its new Global Small Commercial Business unit in London, which will focus on companies that pay less than $100,000 in annual premiums. Mr. Bartleet was formerly CEO of Willis' global markets North America. No replacement has been named.


Alea Group Holdings (Bermuda) Ltd., which is in runoff, has agreed to a £162 million ($318.8 million) takeover offer from FIN Acquisition Ltd., a company set up by private equity funds advised by Fortress Investment Group....A.M. Best Co. Inc. has raised the financial strength rating of Meadowbrook Insurance Group and its members to A- from B++. Best said the upgrade reflects the Southfield, Mich.-based insurer group's underwriting and operating improvements and capitalization, as well as its management's expertise in the alternative risk market....Lloyd's Reinsurance Co. (China) Ltd., the Chinese underwriting arm of Lloyd's of London, last week was assigned an A financial strength ratings by Standard & Poor's Corp. and A.M. Best Co. Inc. Both said the A ratings reflect support provided to the Shanghai-based entity from the Lloyd's market, in the form of a quota share retrocession of all business underwritten by it exclusively to syndicates trading at Lloyd's.